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Surname - HÖCK

Meaning/Origin – According to the Dictionary of German Names, Second Edition by Hans Bahlow, the name HÖCK be dervived from either dwelling near a hedge (hecke) or from street trader or huckster (höcke).

Countries of Origin – The surname HÖCK is German.

Spelling Variations – The surname has many variations in the records even within my own family, including HOECK, HÖCKH, HECKH or HECK, and HICKH.

Surname Maps – The following maps illustrate the frequency of the HÖCK surname in Germany and Austria.  First, in Germany the surname had 914 entries in 183 different counties with approximately 2,432 people with this name.

Distribution of the surname HÖCK in Germany.

SOURCE: Geogen Surname Mapping database, accessed November 27, 2010.

In Austria, the surname had 314 entries in 40 different counties with approximately 832 people with this name.

Distribution of the surname HÖCK in Austria.

SOURCE: Geogen Surname Mapping database, accessed November 27, 2010.

Famous Individuals with the Surname – Stefan Höck was a German biathlete who won a silver medal in the 1988 Olympics.

My Family – My HÖCK family comes from Bavaria, and it is the surname of my 4th great-grandmother, Maria Theresia Höck Nigg.  Although Maria was born in Bavaria, her father came from Tirol (Tyrol, Austria).

My line of descent is as follows: Simon HECKH > Johann Baptiste Höck (b. unknown in Hopfau, Tirol, m. Gertraudt PAUR on 18 Feb 1765 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, d. unknown in Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm) > Maria Theresia Höck (b. 27 Apr 1769 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria,  m. Karl Nigg on 10 May 1794 in Pfaffenhofen, d. after 1814 in Pfaffenhofen).

I have not yet researched all of the other children of Johann and Gertraudt Höck, but I did find births for Maria Catharina born in 1766, Johann Michael born in 1767, and Maria Magdalena born in 1770.

Johann Baptiste Höck was a zimmerman or carpenter.  Pfaffenhofen’s häuserchronik indicates that he was in town by 1765 for his marriage to Gertraudt Paur.  In this book, his surname is listed as Hickh (Höckh) and it says he is from the town of Hoepfau in Tirol.  His actual marriage record spells his name as Heckh, and says his father, Simon Heckh, is from the town of “Schofau” from Tirol.  The handwriting is difficult to decipher.  By 1773, Johann Höck is listed in the häuserchronik as the stadtzimmermeister, or the town’s master carpenter.  Research on Johann, his family, and his origins is ongoing.

My Research Challenges – While there does not seem to be a town called Hoepfau in the Tyrollean region of Austria, there is a Hopfau in Steiermark.  There is also a Hopferau in the Schwaben area of Bavaria in Germany, which is far enough south to have been within the boundaries of Tirol, Austria back at the time my Johann Höck would have been born and moved to Pfaffenhofen.  I can not find any town that appears similar to the “Schofau” on the handwritten marriage record.  At any rate, more research is needed to uncover these “Austrian” roots!

Links to all posts about my Höck family can be found here.

This post is #10 of an ongoing series about surnames. To see all posts in the series, click here.

Surname - HÖCK

Meaning/Origin – According to the Dictionary of German Names, Second Edition by Hans Bahlow, the name HÖCK be dervived from either dwelling near a hedge (hecke) or from street trader or huckster (höcke).

Countries of Origin – The surname HÖCK is German.

Spelling Variations – The surname has many variations in the records even within my own family, including HOECK, HÖCKH, HECKH or HECK, and HICKH.

Surname Maps – The following maps illustrate the frequency of the HÖCK surname in Germany and Austria.  First, in Germany the surname had 914 entries in 183 different counties with approximately 2,432 people with this name.

Distribution of the surname HÖCK in Germany.

SOURCE: Geogen Surname Mapping database, http://christoph.stoepel.net/geogen/en/Default.aspx, accessed November 27, 2010.

In Austria, the surname had 314 entries in 40 different counties with approximately 832 people with this name.

Distribution of the surname HÖCK in Austria.

SOURCE: Geogen Surname Mapping database, http://christoph.stoepel.net/geogen/en/Default.aspx, accessed November 27, 2010.

Famous Individuals with the Surname – Stefan Höck was a German biathlete who won a silver medal in the 1988 Olympics.

My Family – My HÖCK family comes from Bavaria, and it is the surname of my 4th great-grandmother, Maria Theresia Höck Nigg.  Although Maria was born in Bavaria, her father came from Tirol (Tyrol, Austria).

My line of descent is as follows: Simon HECKH > Johann Baptiste Höck (b. unknown in Hopfau, Tirol, m. Gertraudt PAUR on 18 Feb 1765 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, d. unknown in Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm) > Maria Theresia Höck (b. 27 Apr 1769 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria,  m. Karl Nigg on 10 May 1794 in Pfaffenhofen, d. after 1814 in Pfaffenhofen).

I have not yet researched all of the other children of Johann and Gertraudt Höck, but I did find births for Maria Catharina born in 1766, Johann Michael born in 1767, and Maria Magdalena born in 1770.

Johann Baptiste Höck was a zimmerman or carpenter.  Pfaffenhofen’s häuserchronik indicates that he was in town by 1765 for his marriage to Gertraudt Paur.  In this book, his surname is listed as Hickh (Höckh) and it says he is from the town of Hoepfau in Tirol.  His actual marriage record spells his name as Heckh, and says his father, Simon Heckh, is from the town of “Schofau” from Tirol.  The handwriting is difficult to decipher.  By 1773, Johann Höck is listed in the häuserchronik as the stadtzimmermeister, or the town’s master carpenter.  Research on Johann, his family, and his origins is ongoing.

My Research Challenges – While there does not seem to be a town called Hoepfau in the Tyrollean region of Austria, there is a Hopfau in Steiermark.  There is also a Hopferau in the Schwaben area of Bavaria in Germany, which is far enough south to have been within the boundaries of Tirol, Austria back at the time my Johann Höck would have been born and moved to Pfaffenhofen.  I can not find any town that appears similar to the “Schofau” on the handwritten marriage record.  At any rate, more research is needed to uncover these “Austrian” roots!

Links to all posts about my Höck family can be found here.

Surname – HÖCK

Meaning/Origin – According to the Dictionary of German Names, Second Edition by Hans Bahlow, the name HÖCK be dervived from either dwelling near a hedge (hecke) or from street trader or huckster (höcke).

Countries of Origin – The surname HÖCK is German.

Spelling Variations – The surname has many variations in the records even within my own family, including HOECK, HÖCKH, HECKH or HECK, and HICKH.

Surname Maps – The following maps illustrate the frequency of the HÖCK surname in Germany and Austria.  First, in Germany the surname had 914 entries in 183 different counties with approximately 2,432 people with this name.

Distribution of the surname HÖCK in Germany.

SOURCE: Geogen Surname Mapping database, http://christoph.stoepel.net/geogen/en/Default.aspx, accessed November 27, 2010.

In Austria, the surname had 314 entries in 40 different counties with approximately 832 people with this name.

Distribution of the surname HÖCK in Austria.

SOURCE: Geogen Surname Mapping database, http://christoph.stoepel.net/geogen/en/Default.aspx, accessed November 27, 2010.

Famous Individuals with the Surname – Stefan Höck was a German biathlete who won a silver medal in the 1988 Olympics.

My Family – My HÖCK family comes from Bavaria, and it is the surname of my 4th great-grandmother, Maria Theresia Höck Nigg.  Although Maria was born in Bavaria, her father came from Tirol (Tyrol, Austria).

My line of descent is as follows: Simon HECKH > Johann Baptiste Höck (b. unknown in Hopfau, Tirol, m. Gertraudt PAUR on 18 Feb 1765 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, d. unknown in Pfaffenhofen a.d. Ilm) > Maria Theresia Höck (b. 27 Apr 1769 in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria,  m. Karl Nigg on 10 May 1794 in Pfaffenhofen, d. after 1814 in Pfaffenhofen).

I have not yet researched all of the other children of Johann and Gertraudt Höck, but I did find births for Maria Catharina born in 1766, Johann Michael born in 1767, and Maria Magdalena born in 1770.

Johann Baptiste Höck was a zimmerman or carpenter.  Pfaffenhofen’s häuserchronik indicates that he was in town by 1765 for his marriage to Gertraudt Paur.  In this book, his surname is listed as Hickh (Höckh) and it says he is from the town of Hoepfau in Tirol.  His actual marriage record spells his name as Heckh, and says his father, Simon Heckh, is from the town of “Schofau” from Tirol.  The handwriting is difficult to decipher.  By 1773, Johann Höck is listed in the häuserchronik as the stadtzimmermeister, or the town’s master carpenter.  Research on Johann, his family, and his origins is ongoing.

My Research Challenges – While there does not seem to be a town called Hoepfau in the Tyrollean region of Austria, there is a Hopfau in Steiermark.  There is also a Hopferau in the Schwaben area of Bavaria in Germany, which is far enough south to have been within the boundaries of Tirol, Austria back at the time my Johann Höck would have been born and moved to Pfaffenhofen.  I can not find any town that appears similar to the “Schofau” on the handwritten marriage record.  At any rate, more research is needed to uncover these “Austrian” roots!

Links to all posts about my Höck family can be found here.

This post is #10 of an ongoing series about surnames. To see all posts in the series, click here.

This post is #10 of an ongoing series about surnames. To see all posts in the series, click here.

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There’s one in every family…the one who vanished.  Or at least seems to have vanished.  That mysterious figure that family members whisper about.  That person known in name only with no photographs as a remembrance.  That relative about whom know one really knows what happened.

My grandfather’s sister, the aunt my father never met, ran away and disappeared.  At least that’s how the story goes.  I was successful in documenting the beginning of her life, but then she disappears from public records without a trace.  She is the family legend – the one who disappeared.

Janina Piątkowska was born on December 29, 1905 in Warsaw, Poland to Jan Piątkowski and Rozalia nee Kizoweter.  The family lived in the Wola section of the city, and she was baptized at St. Stanisława Church.  Janina had an older brother, Józef, who was born two years earlier.

Just a few months after Janina was born, her father left for the United States.  He settled in Philadelphia, PA and found work in the same occupation he had in Poland – leatherworking.  He also began using his Americanized name, John Piontkowski.  It would be over six months before the rest of the family could join him in America.  In late October, 1906, Rozalia boarded the SS Armenia in Hamburg, Germany with 3-year-old Józef and almost 1-year-old Janina.  They arrived at Ellis Island on November 10, 1906.

By 1910, the Piontkowski family was living on Huntingdon Street in Philadelphia (listed as the Kilkuskie family in the census).  On July 6, 1910, my grandfather James was born.  He would later be called the “surprise” baby; mother Rose was 44 and father John was 39.

In 1920, the family lived on Waterloo Street in Philadelphia.  John worked in a leather factory, 18-year-old Joseph worked in a file factory, and teenager “Jennie” worked as a cigarette-maker in a cigarette factory.  Nine-year-old James attended school, and mother Rose did not work outside of the home.  Later that year, John formally declared his intent to become a U.S. citizen.

In 1922, John filed his petition for naturalization, and all three children – Joseph, Jennie, and James – were still listed as living with him.  His naturalization was finalized on May 11, 1923.

In the 1930 census, the family lives in yet another Philadelphia residence – this one on N. Front Street. Joseph is now married, and his wife Catherine and their 2-year-old daughter Josephine are living with John and Rose.  Twenty-year-old James is living with them, but his sister Jennie is no longer with them.  Where did she go?

The story of “Jennie” – also called by her birth name “Janina” and “Jean” or “Jeannie” – was passed on from my grandfather to his children.  I have no other documented facts about her beyond the 1922 petition of her father, just the story as told by her younger brother.  He said that she was working as a waitress and met a “rich” doctor.  They fell in love, he offered to “take her away” from the drudgery of the family’s working-class life, and they “ran off” to Florida.  End of story.

My grandfather never heard from his sister again.  I searched the Philadelphia marriage indexes for a marriage record, but did not find one.  This isn’t necessarily unusual – although my grandparents and one set of great-grandparents all lived in Philadelphia at the time of their marriage, they actually got married in three different towns outside of the city’s limits.  But without knowing Jennie’s married name, I haven’t been able to find out any more information about her.  The only certainty is that she did either run away or move away and never had contact with her family again.  Did she know that her mother died in 1937?  Or that her father tragically took his own life in 1942?  Her older brother Joseph, who used the surname Perk, died in 1953, leaving young children from two different marriages.

At the age of 43, my grandfather had lost all of his immediate family members – except possibly for his big sister.  He even named his daughter Jean in honor of his sister, but neither Jean nor his son James would ever meet their mysterious aunt.

If Jennie really did fall in love and run away to get married, it may be most romantic story in my family’s history – even more so if she married a wealthy doctor who could give her luxuries she never knew in childhood.  Did she live happily ever after?  Or did she encounter tragedy?  I certainly hope that her life was long and happy.  Did she have children?  If she did, did she tell them her birth name and where she grew up?  Unfortunately, there are some questions that are not easily answered when researching family history, especially when it’s a family mystery.

There’s one unsolved mystery in every family, and mine is my grandaunt Jennie.  I know a little about the beginning of her life; I hope to one day learn the truth about the rest of it.  Whether it’s a romantic dream or a tragic tale, you probably have one, too – there’s one in every family!

Photo courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales.  No, this isn’t Jennie, but I thought it best represented her story!

[Submitted for the 100th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy – There’s One in Every Family!]

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…and detailing their labors

Recently I finally admitted defeat with my complete lack of organization of all things genealogical, so I’m on a crusade to rebuild my database from scratch and take care of some of those pesky little details like, oh, you know, source citations and whatnot.  In addition to documenting the sources I’ve used, I also wanted to make sure I document all of the details from documents that I may have previously neglected.

In light of this, I had a few minutes of my lunch hour to spare today so I decided to make sure I had some digital copies of certain records.  For no reason in particular, I decided to copy the U.S. World War II Draft Registration cards for my great-grandfather, Louis Pater, and his brother, Stephan.  I’ve had good luck in researching the Pater family – I know where and when they were born and can trace the family back a few generations.  But in looking at the draft cards, which undoubtedly I had already seen at some point in my research, I came upon the curious fact that in 1942 the brothers worked for the same company.

But that’s not the spooky part…

The Pater brothers worked for the Ardross Worsted Company.  The company name meant nothing to me.  But the address made my eyes widen in disbelief…it is about a half a mile from where I was sitting at my desk in work.  What are the odds of that?

Employer information from the World War II Draft Registration card for Stephan Pater. Source: Ancestry.com

I knew the entire Pater family worked in the textile mills – not only in Philadelphia, but in the town in Poland from which they immigrated, Żyrardów.   But I assumed the factories were in the neighborhood in which they lived – which is not close to the neighborhood where I work (at least when you consider that they didn’t have a car).  This factory, which is no longer standing, was literally blocks from where I work.  In another coincidence, my career involves today’s shrinking U.S. textile industry, so in yet another way I am “connected” to my ancestors (and how I knew that a “worsted” company was a textile manufacturer).

Last January I wrote a post entitled Fun with Maps in Philadelphia in which I highlighted the Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network.  This is a wonderful resource, and it allowed me to see my current work neighborhood through the eyes of my great-grandfather and his brother.  One of the available maps is a “Land Use Map” compiled by the Works Progress Administration in 1942 – the same year the Pater brothers registered for the “Old Man’s Draft.”  The map is available courtesy of the Map Collection at the Free Library of Philadelphia, but the GeoHistory project provides it as an interactive map with an overlay for current map images.  Here is where the Ardross Company resided in 1942:

Location of Ardross Worsted Company, Philadelphia, in 1942.

Just when I think I have gleaned all the information I can from some particular document, I am surprised by some detail that I overlooked.  It was a pleasant surprise to find out that my great-grandfather and I worked in the same neighborhood sixty years apart!

Have you seen, virtually or in reality, the workplaces of your ancestors?  You might be surprised by what you find!

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Surname - DROGOWSKI

Meaning/Origin – The name DROGOWSKI (hear it pronounced in Polish) is derived from the Polish word drogi meaning “dear” .   (Source: Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition by William F. Hoffman)

Country of Origin – The surname DROGOWSKI is Polish.  According to the World Names Profiler, Poland has the highest frequency per million residents with this name at  4.12 per million.  The United States comes in a distant second at .56.

Spelling Variations -  Other names derived from the same root include DROGOŃ, DROGOŚ, AND DROGOSZ. (Source: Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition by William F. Hoffman) The feminine version of the surname is DROGOWSKA.

Surname Map - The following map illustrates the frequency of the DROGOWSKI surname in Poland.  The name is not very popular – there are only 158 individuals listed with the surname, and they can be found in 36 different counties and cities.  The large yellow area in the left center area of the map is where my Drogowski family comes from (Konin area).

Distribution of the DROGOWSKI surname in Poland.

SOURCE: Mojkrewni.pl “Mapa nazwisk” database, http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/drogowski.html, accessed October 16, 2010.

Famous Individuals with the Surname – none that I have found.

My Family – My Drogowski family comes from the town of Wilczyn near Dobrosołowo in Poland. My earliest ancestor so far with this surname is Wojciech Drogowski, who was born in Wilczyn in 1773.  The line of descent is as follows: Wojciech (b. 1773, Wilczyn – d. unknown, married Maryanna née Przygodzka) > Jan (b. 14 June 1818, Wilczyn – d. 29 October 1896, Wilczyn, married Konstancja Kubicka) > Stanisława (b. 23 May 1860, Wilczyn – d. 30 December 1918, Dobrosołowo).  Stanisława married Wincenty ŚLESIŃSKI on 03 September 1879 in Wilczyn.  Their oldest daughter, Wacława Ślesiński (b. 14 Aug 1885, Dobrosołowo, Poland – d. 20 May 1956, Philadelphia, PA, USA), is my great-grandmother.  She immigrated to the United States in 1903 following her husband, Jozef ZAWODNY.

My Research Challenges - I found the 1818 birth record of Jan DROGOWSKI earlier this year when I visited the FHL in Salt Lake City.  I am very fortunate that the Catholic church records for the town of Wilczyn are microfilmed beginning in 1750.  From Jan’s birth record, I learned that his father Wojciech was 45 years old and from Wilczyn.  Therefore, I should be able to locate Wojciech’s birth around 1773 in the Wilczyn records and go back one more generation!   The Wilczyn films are at the top of my genea-to-do list.

Other Drogowski Researchers – Paul Kankula has a web site with research on his DROGOWSKI great-grandparents.  Some of the Drogowski families on his “Unknown Individuals” page were born in Wilczyn and immigrated to Pittsburgh, PA.  I will have to investigate to see if this Drogowski family are cousins to my Drogowski family.

Surname Message Boards – Ancestry has a Drogowski message board.  There are some Drogowski graves listed at Find A Grave here.

Links to all posts about my Drogowski family can be found here.

This post is #9 of an ongoing series about surnames.  To see all posts in the series, click here.

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The Name Game: Week 1

Welcome to the first edition of the Name Game at What’s Past is Prologue.  Names are integral to genealogy, and very quickly researchers discover that it really doesn’t matter whether the records are in English, Latin, Russian, Italian, or any other language – bad handwriting is bad handwriting! So, to help you sharpen your handwriting deciphering skills, each week I’ll pick a particularly ugly example for you to interpret.  Post your guesses in the comments – first one who gets it right wins! Wins what, you ask?  Uh, well, the bragging rights and the esteem of the genealogy blogging community, that’s what! I will post the game on Wednesday and edit the post the following weekend with the correct translation and source information for the record from which the name was excerpted.  Try your luck and impress us with your scribble-reading skills!

Week 1 Hint:  Maximilian II reigned in the time and place this record was written.

And the name is…?

Update 10/10/10 – Kreszenz Bergmeister

Kreszenz is a German female name – the Latin form is Crescentia.  This particular Kreszenz was born Kreszenz Zinsmeister on 01 April 1776.  She married a miller, Josef Bergmeister, on 30  November 1800.  The couple had 12 children – at least two lived to adulthood.  The name above comes from Kreszenz Bergmeister’s own death record, shown in full below (click on the image to see a larger view).  She died on 8 June 1852 in the town of Puch (Pfaffenhofen, Oberbayern, Bayern)  She died at the rather old age (for the time) of 75. Unfortunately, my own handwriting-deciphering skills don’t allow me to read or translate her cause of death, which is shown in the fifth column of the record.

The full record for the death of Kreszenz Bergmeister, who is shown on the third line. Source: Katholische Kirche Puch (BA. Pfaffenhofen). Kirchenbuch, 1612-1900. FHL Microfilm 1981574, Tote 1803-1888.

Page 2 of the record showing the date of death and burial, and the age of death.

Stay tuned next week for another edition of The Name Game and thanks to those who “played”!

 

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Recently I tried searching the collection of German vital records at the FamilySearch Record Search site.  There are three indexes for Germany:

The information in these indexes was extracted from original sources and entered into a database.  Because there is no list of actual sources used for the indexes, and no list of place names included, it is hard to determine if the collection is useful to your area of German research without trying a search.   (FamilySearch: If you are reading this, consider adding a listing of all localities or microfilm rolls used!)  I tried my various Bavarian lines and found a few familiar names, but to summarize my findings I will echo a previous posting of mine – An Index is Only as Good as Its Spelling.

When using these indexes, beware of name errors.  For example, I searched for the names of my 4th great-grandparents, Wolfgang and Juliana Fischer.  In my previous research using original records that were microfilmed by the LDS, I learned their names in the marriage record of their son, Franz Xaver Fischer, and his bride, Barbara Gürtner (my 3rd great-grandparents).

In this original record, I had transcribed Franz Xaver’s parents’ names as Wolfgang Fischer and Julianna Guggenberger and confirmed these names in his birth record.  On the FamilySearch site, I searched the Germany indexes for Wolfgang Fischer and found three hits in the marriage record collection.  Two are for Wolgang and Julianna’s son, Franz Xaver (his marriage to my ancestor was his second).  One is for Wolfgang and Julianna’s daughter, Therese.  Although it is the same couple, the spelling of Julianna’s maiden name is listed in 3 different ways in the index:

On 21 May 1839, Xaver Fischer marries M. Anna Breu in Pfaffenhofen.  The index has Xaver’s (or Franz Xaver, depending on the record) correct date of birth and birthplace – 06 Oct 1813 in Langenbruck.  His parents are listed as Wolfgang Fischer and Juliana Huffenberger.  The source film number is listed as 816429, which is Heiraten, Tote 1827-1872 – Kirchenbuch, 1732-1888, Katholische Kirche Fahlenbach (BA. Pfaffenhofen).

Next, Xaver’s sister Theres Fischer, born 11 May 1816 in “Agilberg” [which is incorrectly spelled in the index and should be Agelsberg], marries Joseph Rainer on 25 Feb 1840 in Waal.  Her parents are listed as Wolfgang Fischer and Juliana Guggenberger.  The source film number is 817563, which is Taufen 1864-1882 Heiraten, Tote 1803-1878 –  Kirchenbuch, 1551-1956, Katholische Kirche Waal (BA. Pfaffenhofen).

The third record is for Xaver’s marriage on 27 Apr 1841 in Pfaffenhofen.  Since he is now listed as a widower, it is presumed his first wife died.  His birthdate and place are the same as the previous record.  The bride’s name is listed as Barbara Hürtner (born 14 Dec  1814).  Xaver’s parents are listed as Wolfgang Fischer and Juliana Huttenberger.  The source film number is 816429 (same as above).

So, is Julianna’s maiden name Huffenberger, Huttenberger, or Guggenberger?  Well, based on viewing the original source for Franz Xaver’s birth as well as his marriages, my guess was Guggenberger – despite the fact that the index lists her name as Huttenberger for the marriage record to my ancestress.  It should be noted that the indexer also records Gürtner as Hürtner, so maybe they had difficulty distinguishing the priest’s handwriting for G’s and H’s.

I decided to pull out my copies of the original records to see why the name’s spelling varies so much.  On the birth record for Franz Xaver, which does not appear in the FamilySearch collection of birth records, the mother’s name is clearly Guggenberger (well, it’s clear if you are used to reading German handwriting):

Mother's name in birth record for Fr. Xaver Fischer, born 06 October 1813 in Langenbruck, Bavaria. Source: Katholische Kirche Fahlenbach (BA. Pfaffenhofen). Kirchenbuch, 1732-1888. FHL Microfilm 816428, Taufen 1736-1816.

In the two marriage records for Xaver (who did not use “Franz” as a first name), it is easy to see why an indexer may have difficulty with the mother’s name.  In both records, the “gg” in the name appears to be written over a “tt”.  His father’s name is written over a crossed-out stepfather’s name since his father, Wolfgang, died when Xaver was a young boy.

Xaver's parents' names on his 1839 marriage record. Source: Katholische Kirche Fahlenbach (BA. Pfaffenhofen). Kirchenbuch, 1732-1888. FHL Microfilm 816429, Heiraten, Tote 1827-1872.

Xaver’s first wife died shortly after giving birth to their first child, Casper, in December, 1840.  The baby also died at 10 days old.  Xaver found a new wife five months later, which was a necessary custom of the time.

Xaver's parents' names on his 1839 marriage record. Source: Katholische Kirche Fahlenbach (BA. Pfaffenhofen). Kirchenbuch, 1732-1888. FHL Microfilm 816429, Heiraten, Tote 1827-1872.

As you can see from the original records, it is easy to understand why the indexer could not get the name “right”.  I would not be sure of the correct spelling unless I looked at other sources, such as Xaver’s birth.  I do not have a copy of Xaver’s sister’s marriage, which is the only one of the 3 indexed records to show “Guggenberger” as the mother’s name.  Interestingly enough, I have the record of Juliana’s second marriage after Wolfgang Fischer’s death.  In it she is listed as the widow Juliana Fischer, but her parents’ names or birth information are not provided.  I have not been able to locate the marriage of Wolfgang and Juliana either.

Just as you can’t trust online family trees without verifying the information by using original sources, you also can’t trust online indexes.  In the case of the indexes I list above, you are not able to see the original records online, but the source microfilm number is provided.  It is highly suggested that you turn to that source to confirm and verify.

Because the indexes can be wrong – as shown above – it is also recommended that you try a variety of spellings when performing name searches.  In fact, if you click on “advanced search”, you can even search for a first name “Wolfgang” and a spouse name of “Juliana”, then narrow down the results by choosing a particular collection of records (I can’t figure out how to do this in the “beta” but the regular FamilySearch allows it).  This won’t work very well with overly common names, but for unusual first names it might work.

It is also important to note that FIRST names don’t follow any set rules in the indexes either.  For example, Josef may be indexed as Josef, the anglicized Joseph (though it wasn’t likely to actually say that in the German record), or the Latinized Josephum.

While these indexes can be a useful tool in guiding you to other sources, they are just that – a tool.  The indexes should not be used as an original source, but instead should lead you to that original record source.  Take note of the record’s source information, look up that microfilm roll in the catalog, and then order it to check it for yourself.

When you try the indexes, keep an open mind when it comes to spellings, because you might miss out on a potential source if you are too “strict” with your spelling choices!

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My grandmother, Margaret Bergmeister Pointkouski, with her children James and Jean in front of their Philadelphia home.  Note the spiffy pants on my dad!

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Two years ago for Mother’s Day I posted a pictorial view of my maternal ancestry.  Today, in honor of Father’s Day, I present the Pointkouski men.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of my great-grandfather Jan Piątkowski.

My Grandfather and Father

My grandfather, James Pointkouski, and my father, James Pointkouski, in 1942.

My Father and Brother

My father and brother, James D. Pointkouski, around 1965.

My Brother and Nephews

The line goes on!  My brother and the two youngest Pointkouski men in 2010.

Happy Father’s Day!

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In honor of Father’s Day tomorrow, Randy Seaver chose an interesting topic for this week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun (SNGF):  who was the most prolific dad in your family’s history?

Once again, I rely on my Bergmeister family for the answer (usually because this is the line I know the most about).  The most prolific dad, or the man in my ancestry that fathered the most children, is Jakob Bergmeister (20 May 1805 – 18 Sep 1870.  He and his wife, Anna Maria Daniel (24 Jun 1812 – 02 Feb 1871), had fifteen children in nineteen years.  Most of the children did not survive to adulthood, but it is an awe-inspiring number nonetheless.  Personally, I think Anna Maria deserves the honor for this feat – her job was harder.

When the couple married on 02 Jun 1835, Jakob was 30 years old and Anna Maria was almost 23.  She bore her first child at the age of 14, and her last at age 43.  Jakob was a father for the first time at age 31, and at 50 for the final time.  Their children were:

  • 1836 Aug 08 – Anna Maria – died Aug 14.
  • 1837 Aug 15 – Michael – survived to adulthood.  Marries in 1866 and has at least two sons.  Each of his sons had a son who died fighting in World War I.
  • 1839 Sep 12 – Jakob – unknown if  survived to adulthood
  • 1840 Nov 22 – Maria Anna – unknown if survived to adulthood
  • 1841 Dec 7 – Josef – died Dec 13.
  • 1843 Feb 9 – Josef – my ancestor, the father of my great-grandfather Josef.
  • 1844 Jan 8 – Johann – died Apr 4 same year.
  • 1845 Feb 25 – Castulus – survived to adulthood.  Marries and has several children before his death on 01 May 1912.  I have met several of his descendants.
  • 1846 Jun 15 – Anton – died Sep 3 same year.
  • 1847 Oct 22 – Walburga – unknown if survived to adulthood
  • 1849 Jun 17 – Anna Maria – unknown if survived to adulthood
  • 1850 July 31 – ??? – died Sep 15 same year.
  • 1851 Sep 08 – Martin – died Sep 19.
  • 1853 Nov 16 – Barbara – died Nov 27.
  • 1855 Jun 02 – Kreszens – survived to adulthood.  Married Johann Baptist Haeckl on 22 May 1878.

Of Jakob and Anna Maria’s 15 children, 3 boys and 1 girl definitely survived to adulthood, 7 children died in infancy, and the fate of 4 is unknown.

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Recently I was organizing some research related to my great-grandmother’s sisters (see some photos in my 3-part series on the Slesinski Sisters that begins here).  Three of her four sisters came to the United States on the same ship in 1920.  I found their passenger arrival records many years ago early in my research.  I probably found the record in the early 1990’s, which was long before:

How did we ever find anything?  Back in those ancient days, there were only two options for finding passenger list records: 1) view indexes and arrival records at the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) branches or a LDS Family History Library, or 2) send in a search request – by mail – to NARA.  Oh, and if you did visit a NARA branch in person to research, the only branches that had New York City arrival records – and therefore Ellis Island arrivals – were New York City (then located in Bayonne, NJ) or Pittsfield, MA.

I requested the sisters’ records by mail using the appropriate government form and providing what little information I knew.  Luckily, they found them and sent me the records.  What you received back then were full size images – 17 x 22 inches.  The arrival records in 1920 had two pages of information (including relative in the home country, birthplace, and physical description), and since the three sisters were separated on two different pages, in total I received four very large sheets – well worth the money! (Read more about The Way It Was with regard to passenger lists!)

But coming back to the present…I realized I did not have a digital copy of the record.  Since it is not easy to scan such a large document, I figured I would just look it up.  Since I have a subscription to Ancestry, I went to the site and entered one of the sisters’ names.  Result: nothing.  Hmm…  I remembered the surname was misspelled on the list, so I tried Sleszynska.  Result: nothing (Actually, while writing this post I tried again, and one sister is entered with the name spelled that way; however, I must have tried her sister’s first names or misspelled her first name, because I could not find the correct entry with a name search.)

Wait a minute, I know when they came and what ship they came on – how hard can this be?  Once again, I was not able to find their records.  Finally I removed the name from the search field and looked at all the Polish women who arrived on the SS Adriatic on 15 October 1920.  By this point, I was really curious as to how their names were entered into the database.  Since I had the pertinent data, I eventually did find them…but would I have known it was them if I was searching for the very first time and wasn’t sure when they actually arrived?

Let’s look at the sisters’ names: Janina, Zofia, and Marianna Slesinska, possible spelling Sleszinska.  This is how they are indexed on the various online sites:

Ellis Island’s site lists

  • Sleszyaska, Janma
  • Sloskynska, Zonia
  • Slexzynska, Maryanna

Ancestry’s site lists

  • Sleszyuska, Jama
  • Sloszyaska, Zo??A
  • Sleszynska, Maryanna
  • There is also an entry that reads Sister in 17/18 Janna Sloszyaska

Keep in mind, if you will, that the first two sisters appear one below the other on the list…

Now, as far as Polish surnames go, this one is not too difficult.  Based on the principles of the Soundex system, only one of these listings would actually be found using a search for either Slesinska or Sleszinska, and that would be Ancestry’s entry for Maryanna Sleszynska.  For Soundex to work, you at least need right-sounding consonants in the right places! Of course, even to find that one entry you would have to either wade through all of the entries or search for the first name “Maryanna” in lieu of “Marianna”.

Even Steve Morse’s site wouldn’t find these ladies if I didn’t already know where to look!

But there is an irony to this search that made it all the more amusing.  Of all the immigrant relatives I have, and all of the passenger arrival records I have copied, this list – the one with the surname-spelling-challenged-sisters – is typewritten.  It’s not even handwriting!  But, just because it’s typewritten doesn’t mean it’s legible…let’s finally take a look at these hard-to-find ladies:

Entry on the passenger list for Maryanna Sleszynska - although some white-out would have been helpful.

Passenger list entry for "Janma" and "Zo ia" - well, at least they knew they were sisters!

All I know is that in the original NARA indexes, Zofia really is listed as “Zofia Sleszynska” – for that is how I found these ladies in the first place!  The old adage is true…computers are only as good as what goes into them.  The moral of the story is…if you can’t find someone in an online index, it doesn’t mean they are not there – it just means they are hard to find!

By the way, you can still order passenger arrival list copies from NARA using the form via mail or online.  I wonder if you still get the 17″ x 22″ images?

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In 1944’s movie musical Meet Me in St. Louis, Judy Garland’s character is in love with the boy next door.  She sings about him in the appropriately titled “The Boy Next Door”, written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane:

The moment I saw him smile,
I knew he was just my style,
My only regret is we’ve never met,
Though I dream of him all the while.

But he doesn’t know I exist,
No matter how I may persist,
So it’s clear to see there’s no hope for me,
Though I live at 5135 Kensington Avenue
And he lives at 5133.

How can I ignore
The boy next door?
I love him more than I can say.
Doesn’t try to please me, doesn’t even tease me,
And he never sees me glance his way.

And though I’m heart-sore
The boy next door affection for me won’t display,
I just adore him, so I can’t ignore him,
The boy next door.

I just adore him, so I can’t ignore him,
The boy next door.

Fred and Dottie Kelly with their daughter Colleen.

The song is one of several Martin-Blane hits from the movie.  But did you know that it was based on a true story of a girl who fell in love with the boy next door?  Fortunately in her case, the boy did glance her way and married her or else they would have never inspired Martin and Blane to write the song!  The boy next door was Fred Kelly from Pittsburgh, PA.  Fred had an older brother that you may have heard of by the name of Eugene – otherwise known to the world as Gene Kelly who sang and danced to through the most beloved movie musicals of the 1940s and 50s.  Fred’s girl next door was Dorothy (Dottie) Greenwalt.

Fred and Dottie really did grow up on Kensington Street in Pittsburgh, but their actual addresses didn’t fit the music as well as 5133 and 5135.  Based on the 1930 census, 13-year-old Frederick Kelly lived at 7514 Kensington Street, and 8-year-old Dorothy Greenwalt lived at 7530.  It wasn’t exactly “next door”, but it was close enough for the youngsters to meet and fall in love.

Kelly household at 7514 Kensington St. in the 1930 Federal Census for Pittsburgh, PA.

Greenwalt household at 7530 Kensington St on the same page.

Fred and Dottie married during Broadway rehearsals for the Irving Berlin show “This is the Army” in which Fred was performing.  Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane were also involved with the production, and they asked the newlyweds how they met.  Dottie replied, “I just adored the boy next door.”  Then the couple showed the writers their driver’s licenses to prove it!  Martin and Blane wrote “The Boy Next Door” with Fred and Dottie in mind.  The song went on to be a huge hit and was recorded by many other artists besides Judy Garland.

In my own family, I also discovered an instance of a girl marrying the boy next door – my grandparents.  In the 1930 census, we see 18-year-old Henry Pater living at 2506 Indiana Avenue in Philadelphia, and 22-year old May (Mae) Zawodny living at 2512.  While it is true that the couple lived at those addresses, the “facts” as shown on the census are a bit confusing.  First, both Henry and Mae were already married but are shown as living with their parents.  That they were living in separate addresses despite their marriage is likely true, because at the time of the marriage on 01 Feb 1930, Henry was only 17 years old.  The couple didn’t quite tell their parents right away, and it wasn’t until they were married in a church ceremony in June that they were able to live together.

The Zawodny and Pater households in the 1930 Federal Census for Philadelphia, PA.

Mae and Henry Pater with daughter Anita (1937).

In the Pater household, Henry is listed as single.  But the enumeration record for the Zawodny household is not correct at all.  The father, Joseph, is listed as a widow.  However, his actual living wife, Laura, is listed as a sister.  Mae is shown as married for two months, which is true, but she is listed as a “daughter-in-law” to Joseph, not as his daughter.  Also, her presumed husband is listed as Charles, who was in fact her brother and still single at 19 years old.  If only I could see film or video of the visit of the census-taker to their household…I am sure my grandmother was behind the mis-information!

While Henry and Mae didn’t have a song written about them like Fred and Dottie, they are yet another tale of a girl falling in love with “the boy next door” – or on the same street, anyway.  Have you looked closely at the census records in your family?  Did anyone fall in love with the boy (or girl) next door?

Source Information:

  • Kelly-Greenwalt Census Image:  1930 U.S. Federal Census, Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll  1977; Page: 27B; Enumeration District: 229.
  • Pater-Zawodny Census Image:  1930 U.S. Federal Census, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll  2110; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 914.
  • Photo of Fred, Dottie and Colleen Kelly used with permission from Colleen Kelly Beaman.   Please see her web site, Dance Kelly Style, for more information on Fred Kelly and the Kelly family’s legacy of dance.
  • For more even more information on Fred Kelly, see his biography on my Gene Kelly site.  To see a photo of his childhood home on Kensington Street, see the biography on Marc Baron’s site.
  • For more information on the Pater and Zawodny families, continue to read this blog or click on the surnames in the side bar!

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This edition of the Carnival of Central & Eastern European Genealogy highlights “The Village of my Ancestor”.  Several of my ancestors came from very small villages in Poland.  In fact, my great-grandmother Rozalia Kizeweter Piątkowski was born in Mała Wieś, which translates into English as “small village.”  Eighteen villages in Poland bear this name, so  hers is also called Mała Wieś Promna because it is located in Promna borough. The village was so small, that according to Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego there were only 7 houses and 71 inhabitants in 1827 (that’s a lot of people per house!).

But, there’s not much to write about such a tiny village, so instead I’d like to introduce you to another village of another ancestor, Antonina Rozalia Pluta Pater, who was born on 11 June 1863 in Mszczonów.  The title of this post was my first introduction to the name of the town, which came from the birth record of Antonina.  The record begins, as all vital records did at that time, with the words “This happened in the town of  Mszczonów…”

Mszczonów is located nearly in the center of Poland in  Żyrardów County and the Masovian Voivodeship.  As of 2004, the town had 6,310 inhabitants and could be described as a small city rather than a village.  Mszczonów has a very old history.  It was first mentioned in a document written in 1245 by Duke Konrad I, but it is believed that a settlement existed in the area from the mid-twelfth century.   A local church was established by 1324.  In 1377, Mszczonów was declared a city by Ziemowit III, Duke of Mazovia.

The area was heavily forested and was directly on a trade route that went north to south through Poland.  Initially this location attacted residents, but in the 16th century the entire town became the property of the Radziejowski family, owners of adjacent Radziejowice.  Under the family’s control, the town was not developed.  Other factors that stagnated development of the town were the wars with Sweden from 1655-1657 and the partitioning of Poland that began in 1795.  Because of the wars, the population was reduced and the lack of craftsmen reduced trade with neighboring towns.  The situation changed during the partition years of 1795-1918, when Mszczonów fell under Russian rule.  Slowly the town’s population grew, and by the early nineteenth century the town was one of the largest in Mazovia.

This is the time that my ancestors lived in Mszczonów.  My 2nd great-grandmother was Antonina Rozalia Pluta Pater, born on 11 June 1863.  Her father, Ludwik Pluta, was a 19-year-old shoemaker whose father and grandfather were also shoemakers from Mszczonów.  Antonina’s mother, Franziszka Wojciechowski, was also 19 and the daughter of another shoemaker from the town.  Both Antonina and her mother would eventually leave Mszczonów to immigrate to the United States.   The records for Mszczonów held by the LDS only go back to 1808, which is not far enough back to find the birth record for Ludwik and Franziska’s grandparents who were all born around 1795-1800.  The Polish National Archives may have older records (availability can be checked online, but the site is down for service as of this writing).

Here are some photos from my visit to Mszczonów in 2001:

St. John the Baptist church in Mszczonów

A plaque on the church listing the names of the pastors from 1658-1982. Rev. Filipowicz baptized Antonina's father in 1843.

[ Submitted for the 27th edition of the Carnival of Central & Eastern European Genealogy: The Village of My Ancestor ]

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In honor of St. Patrick’s Day this week, I have chosen to highlight an Irish surname.  The only problem with that is that I personally have no Irish ancestry.  But my niece does from her mother’s paternal side!

Surname - MCGEEHAN

Meaning/Origin – The name MCGEEHAN is an anglicized form of Gaelic Mac Gaoithín or ‘son of Gaoithín’, a personal name derived from the diminutive of gaoth which means ‘clever’ or ‘wise’. (Source: Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press)

Countries of Origin - The surname MCGEEHAN is Irish.  According to the World Names Profiler, Ireland has the highest frequency per million residents with this name at  49.37 per million.  The United Kingdom comes in second at 10.9, and the United States is third at 6.9.

Spelling Variations -  Other variations of McGeehan include Mageean, Mageehan, McGehan, Mac Gaoithín, MacGeehan, MacGeehin, MacGeehon, and McGeehon.

Surname Maps – The following map illustrates the frequency of the MCGEEHAN surname in Ireland in 1848-64.  The numbers on the map show the number of McGeehan households in the county found in the Primary Valuation property survey of 1848-64 (known as Griffith’s Valuation).  The surname name is found mostly in Northern Ireland.

Distribution of the McGeehan surname in Ireland, 1848-64.

SOURCE: Irish Ancestors database, http://www.irishtimes.com/ancestor/surname/, accessed March 13, 2010.

My Family -As I said above, I have no Irish ancestry.  However, my niece’s 2nd great-grandmother was named Nellie McGeehan (1890-1920).  Her father was Edward McGeehan, who was born in 1858 in Pennsylvania – likely in Philadelphia.  Edward’s parents were born in Ireland.

My Research Challenges – Right now the challenge with finding Edward McGeehan’s birth record is the fact that there was no civil registration required in Pennsylvania until 1860, two years after his birth.  More information about Edward’s parents may be obtained from his death record, which I have not yet found.  Census records have conflicting information, but Edward may have been a Philadelphia police officer.  His daughter Nellie married William Lee.  Unfortunately Nellie died at the age of 30, leaving behind a 10-year-old daughter, Catherine Lee.

Surname Message Boards - Ancestry has a McGeehan message board as does GenForum.

 

Links to posts about Irish Surnames and families I am researching for others can be found here.

This post is #8 of an ongoing series about surnames.  To see all posts in the series, click here.

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This month’s Carnival of Genealogy celebrates women’s history month with a chance to pay a special tribute to a woman on our family tree – and her timeline in history.  This is the story of my great-grandmother, Maria Echerer Bergmeister.

Timeline for Maria Echerer Bergmeister

1875

February 27 – Maria Echerer is born to Karl and Margarethe Echerer in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Bavaria, Germany.  She is the couple’s first-born child.

1876

August 22 – A sister, Magdalena, is born.

1878

June 25 – Maria’s paternal grandmother, Magdalena Nigg Echerer, dies.

1878

June 28 – A brother, Karl, is born.

1880

February 07 – A sister, Teresia, is born.

1882

February 20 – A sister, Cristina, is born.

1895

October 04 – Maria’s mother, Margarethe Fischer Echerer, dies at the age of 50.  Maria is 20 years old at the time of her mother’s death.

1897

November 02 – Maria marries Josef Bergmeister in Pfaffenhofen.  Karl Echerer witnesses the marriage (either her father or brother).

1898

February 27 – On Maria’s 23rd birthday, her first child is born, a daughter, also named Maria.  The family is living in house #331 in Pfaffenhofen.

1900

May 03 – Maria’s husband, Josef, sails on the SS Arargonia from Antwerp, Belgium.  He arrives in Philadelphia, PA, USA on May 18.  Once he arrives, he lives with his sister and brother-in-law, Hilaury and Max Thuman, at 1033 Jefferson Street.

1901

June 13 – Maria and daughter Maria sails on the SS Kensington from Antwerp, Belgium.  They arrive in New York, NY, USA on June 27.  Husband Josef is living at 1500 N. Warnock St. in Philadelphia.

1902

April 16 – A son, Joseph Maximilian, is born.  He is baptized at St. Peter’s and his godparents are his aunt and uncle, Hilaury and Max Thuman.

1905

May 07 – A son, Maximilian Julius, is born.  He is baptized at St. Peter’s and his godparents are his aunt and uncle, Hilaury and Max Thuman.

1907

June 16 – A son, Julius Carl, is born. He is baptized at St. Peter’s and his godparents are his aunt and uncle, Hilaury Thuman and Julius Goetz (Josef and Hilaury’s half-brother).

1909

July 17 – A son, Charles, is born.  Charles was premature and only lived for 15 hours.

1911

November 05 – A daughter, Laura, is born.  Laura was premature and died the same day.

1913

April 11 – A daughter, Margaret Hermina, is born (my grandmother).  She is baptized at St. Peter’s and her godparents are her aunt and uncle, Hilaury Thuman and Herman Goetz (Josef and Hilaury’s half-brother).

1919

February 05 – Maria dies from myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) with bronchial asthma as a contributing factor.  She is buried at Holy Redeemer Cemetery on February 8.

Maria Echerer Bergmeister 1875-1919

The ancestor I chose for my tribute is my great-grandmother, Maria Echerer Bergmeister.  She may seem like an odd choice, because of all the female ancestors I have traced, she has the shortest lifespan.  But I recently celebrated my 43rd birthday, and I realized she died just weeks before what would have been her 44th birthday.  She was so young – too young to die.  But in her short lifetime, she accomplished so much more than I have.  I don’t know much about her except from what I have learned from public records, but I do know she did three major things in her life for which there is no comparison in my own.  First, she got married.  Second, she left behind her homeland – a town her ancestors had lived for centuries – to live in a new country with her husband.  Finally, she had five children (and two others who died as infants).  Even though Maria died at a young age, today she has over 100 descendants.

I know a great deal about Maria’s ancestry in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm.  Her father, Karl Echerer, was a shoemaker turned bricklayer.  His father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and second great-grandfather were all shoemakers in the town of Pfaffenhofen.  Perhaps the shoemaker trade was not as needed in the mid- to late 1800s as it was in earlier centuries, because Karl was the first Echerer son to find a new occupation.  Rather than follow in his father’s footsteps (no pun intended), he took on the profession of his maternal grandfather, Karl Nigg, who was a carpenter and descended from two generations of master masons.  The house in which Maria Echerer was born, #214, had been in her father’s mother’s family since 1784 – nearly one hundred years.

Maria’s mother, Margarethe Fischer, came from a small town near Pfaffenhofen called Langenbruck and she was the daughter of a farmer.  Although she was only 27 years old when she married Karl Echerer, she was already a widow.  Her first husband had been Bartholomew Kufer from Raitbach.  I have not learned the circumstances of his death, and it is unknown if she had any children from this marriage.

Through researching church records in Pfaffenhofen, I found the baptismal records for three sisters and a brother.  I have not researched further to determine if all of Maria’s siblings lived to adulthood; however, it appears that her brother Karl marries in June, 1897.  More research is needed to learn more about Karl, who presumably stayed in Pfaffenhofen when his sister immigrated.

The Bergmeister Bakery today, Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm

It is likely that Maria met Josef Bergmeister in her hometown of Pfaffenhofen.  He was born north of there in the town of Vohburg a.d. Donau, but his family was from a small town close to Pfaffenhofen called Puch.  Josef’s ancestors were millers, and the sons became either millers or related trades.  His father, also named Josef, was a flour merchant.  Josef became a baker, and it is likely that he came to Pfaffenhofen to work for his uncle, Castulus Bergmeister, who operated a bakery in the center of town.  Descendents of Castulus still run the same bakery today.

Based on the dates of the records, it appears that Maria was pregnant at the time of her marriage to Josef.  Their daughter Maria was born close to four months after the wedding – on Maria’s 23rd birthday.

Little is known about the family’s life in Pfaffenhofen or what prompted them to immigrate to the United States.  Josef had a sister, Hilaury, who immigrated to Philadelphia in 1893, and he makes the move first to meet her and her husband.  At the time he left Germany, his daughter was only 2 years old.

Maria and her daughter remained in Germany for more than a year before taking the journey to America.  Their port of departure, Antwerp, was 460 miles from Pfaffenhofen.  In researching Maria’s life, her personal memories, thoughts, and feelings are unknown – she left behind no letters or journals.  But I admire her courage.  She had not seen her husband in over a year, and she traveled a very long way, alone with a 3-year-old.

Once reunited, the couple re-started their family in earnest.  Their first son was born a little more than nine months after the reunion.  After two more sons over the next five years, Maria suffered the lost of two infants through premature births.  My grandmother, Margaret – perhaps named after Maria’s mother – was nearly premature herself.  According to the older siblings, they did not think Margaret would survive because she was so tiny.  Fortunately, especially for me, she did survive.  Sadly, she would never really get to know her own mother.

Maria's two daughters, Maria and Margaret. The photo was taken around 1919 - the year their mother died.

According to Josef and Maria’s oldest daughter, Maria was a strong-willed personality who took charge of the family – and her husband.  The children remember Maria chastising her husband, who was physically much taller; he always listened.  Maria called her husband “Sepp” – the German nickname for “Josef”.

When Maria died, her oldest daughter was weeks away from turning 21 years old.  The Bergmeister sons were 16, 14, and 11.  Young Margaret was not quite 6.  Maria’s husband Josef was greatly troubled by her death.  Josef did not take care of his own health afterwards, and he died eight years later – also very young.  The children remained close throughout their lives – bonded together in the loss of their parents.

Maria did not live a long life and I do not know much about her.  But what little I was able to discover is worthy of admiration.  She was a woman of great courage to leave her homeland and her family for a new country in which she did not know the language.  What I admire the most about her is something you can not find “recorded” in any document, but I think it is evident from the memories and character of her children.  That trait is the love she had for her husband and family.  What could be a finer legacy?  Thanks, Maria, for your courage and your love.

[ Written for the 91st Carnival of Genealogy: Tribute to Women ]

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Genealogists frequently stress the importance of labeling photographs so that future generations know who’s who.  This is true even for our own photographs that we take today.  But while we may forget who are friends were twenty years later, would we forget a relative?  I can now tell you that yes, it’s possible, especially if the photograph in question was taken before you were born.

This past weekend I started a “Bergmeister Family” group on Facebook for all of my cousins.  I asked if anyone had wedding photos of my grandmother’s siblings.  When my cousin posted this photograph of her grandparents, I nearly fell out of my chair.  This is the lovely wedding photo of Joseph Bergmeister and Helen Pardus from 1924:

Joseph Bergmeister and Helen Pardus, 1924

Why was this so surprising?  Because I own a copy of this photo!  In fact, I’ve posted this photo on this very blog.  And in that post, the photo was not identified as my dad’s uncle and his wife, but as my mom’s aunt and her husband!

I called my mother.  “I thought you said that was your Aunt Helen!  It’s Dad’s Aunt Helen and Uncle Joe!”  Without seeing the photo over the phone, she wasn’t sure what to say.  But she did say, “That’s funny, I don’t ever remember seeing a photo of my Aunt Helen.”  Perhaps she identified “Aunt Helen” and I assumed it was her aunt instead of my dad’s.  Whatever the case, I have had this couple misidentified for years!

Sometimes identification of individuals in a photo is tricky.  But my humorous story proves that sometimes you may be wrong even when a relative helps with the identification.  The funniest part of this story is that the photo was previously posted in June, 2009 as the Tiernan-Zawodny wedding.  Several of the Bergmeister-Pardus grandchildren have visited this blog, but they would not have found the photo of their grandparents since it was listed under the “Zawodny” label, so they didn’t notice the error.  What’s even funnier is that I sent the photo to my mother’s cousin who should have recognized – or rather not recognized – the faces.  Even though he is around my mother’s age and, like her, was born well after this photo, he is a blood relative to both the Tiernan’s and the Zawodny’s since one brother-sister combination married another (his parents).  But even he didn’t set me straight.

Sometimes it pays to trust your instinct…I often looked at this photo and had two thoughts.  First, the woman – or rather the woman I thought she was – looked nothing like my grandmother and her sisters.  Of course not, because she’s not related to them!  And second, the man – who I thought I was not related to – looked rather familiar.  Of course he does, because he looks very much like my great-grandfather (his father) and my father (his nephew)!

I didn’t realize I had a “photo mystery” on my hands, but it’s nice to finally find out the truth about this couple!  Now I have to, uh, amend my post about the alleged Tiernan-Zawodny wedding!

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Surname - WOJCIECHOWSKI

Meaning/Origin – The name WOJCIECHOWSKI (hear it pronounced in Polish) is derived from the Polish first name Wojciech, which in turn comes from the root woj-, meaning “battle”, and ciech, meaning “joy”.   (Source: Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition by William F. Hoffman)

Countries of Origin – The surname WOJCIECHOWSKI is Polish.  According to the World Names Profiler, Poland has the highest frequency per million residents with this name at  897.5 per million.  The United States comes in a distant second at 21.68.

Spelling Variations -  Other names derived from the same root include WOJCIECHOWICZ, WOJCIESKI, and WOJCIESZEK. (Source: Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, Second Edition by William F. Hoffman) The feminine version of the surname is WOJCIECHOWSKA.

Surname Maps - The following map illustrates the frequency of the WOJCIECHOWSKI surname in Poland. As you can see, the surname is rather popular.  There is a wide distribution across the country over 378 counties and cities.  According to Wikipedia, it is the 15th most common surname in Poland!

Distribution of the WOJCIECHOWSKI surname in Poland.

SOURCE: Mojkrewni.pl “Mapa nazwisk” database, http://www.moikrewni.pl/mapa/kompletny/wojciechowski.html, accessed February 23, 2010.

Famous Individuals with the Surname – Stanisław Wojciechowski (1869-1953) was the President of Poland from 1922-26.

My Family - My Wojciechowski family comes from the town of Mszczonów, Poland. My earliest ancestor so far with this name is Maciej Wojciechowski.  I have no birth or death dates for him yet, but he was named on the marriage certificate of his son, Jan.  The line of descent is as follows: Maciej > Jan (b. c.1816, Mszczonów – d. unknown) > Franciszka (b. 01 Oct 1840, Mszczonów – d. 29 Apr 1914, Langhorne, PA, USA).  Franciszka has a special distinction in my family tree – she is my only 3rd great-grandparent to immigrate to the United States.  All that I know about her is that she married Ludwik PLUTA and had at least two children: a son, Jan, and a daughter, Antonina Rozalia.  Antonina is my 2nd great-grandmother.  She immigrated to the US with her husband, Jozef Pater, and their seven children from 1905 – 1907.  In 1909, Franciszka immigrated alone at the age of 69 to join her daugher’s family.  The passenger list describes her as 4′10″, limping, with dark hair, blue eyes, and a dark complexion. What an amazing journey for a woman her age! She lived with her daughter’s family until her death in 1914.

My Research Challenges -I need to continue my research, which I plan to do on a visit to the FHL later this year.  The church records from Mszczonów are available, and I should be able to fill in some missing dates and names for this family.

Surname Message Boards - Ancestry has a Wojciechowski message board as does GenForum.

Links to all posts about my Wojciechowski family can be found here.

This post is #7 of an ongoing series about surnames.  To see all posts in the series, click here.

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Bring Old Photos Back to Life

Although we can’t bring our ancestors back to life, we can bring photographs of our ancestors back to life!  Not all of us have the unique talents to do this – I certainly do not.  But photo restoration professionals can transform old, scratchy, crumbly photos into “looks like new” photos that can be displayed and admired.

I only have one photograph of my mother’s family, which consists of my mother, her sister, and their parents.  The condition of the photo makes it difficult to even describe it as a photograph.  It appears to be a photographic copy of a photograph that was printed in a home photography studio by my aunt’s first husband.  The date of the photograph is July 4, 1937; the copy would have been made around 1950.  It is in very poor condition:

"Original" unrestored photo of the Pater family on July 4, 1937

In this photo my grandmother is almost 30 years old, my mother is 1 1/2, my grandfather is 25, and my aunt is almost 5.  No other photo of the four together remains.  I have other photographs of my grandfather with his daughters at their weddings, but my grandmother is not in those photos.  I had this crumbling photo for years, and one day I wondered why I never bothered to get it restored to a more acceptable state.  My mother is the last surviving member of the family…wouldn’t it be nice to give her a “fixed” photograph?

Although I have done very minor restoration work on my own computer, such as repairing color fading or minor scratches, the extent of the damage of this photograph obviously required a professional.  I called upon the “Queen Of Restoration,” Janine Smith, of Landailyn Research and Restoration.  Take a look at her beautiful handiwork!

The photograph of the Pater family brought back to life!

I can’t thank Janine enough for all of her hard work on this restoration.  And my mother was quite impressed as well!  In addition to the Landailyn Research and Restoration website, also check out other samples of Janine’s restoration work on her blog, Janinealogy.

Do you have any old family photographs in your collection that are ripped, cracked, torn, wrinkled, faded, or damaged?  You do?  Then what are you waiting for?  Bring those photos back to life!  You will be glad that you did.

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The word prompt for the 20th edition of the Smile for the Camera Carnival is Valentine!  Here’s a photo of a couple who were each other’s valentines for a long time – my grandparents.  When the photo was taken, they had been married for 23 years.  James Pointkouski first saw Margaret Bergmeister working at a stored owned by her brother.  He was friends with the brother, and immediately asked him who she was.  Like a typical brother, he replied, “Her? Oh, she’s just my sister” as if that meant she was nothing special.  But she was special to “Jimmy” and he immediately pursued her and eventually married her.  Her brother didn’t mind!

James and Margaret Pointkouski, 1957

Submitted for the 20th Edition of Smile for the Camera: Valentine

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How is Josef Bergmeister related to “my” Josef Bergmeister?

Our story began when I discovered a reference to a Josef Bergmeister who died fighting for Germany in World War I.  This Josef was from Puch, the hometown of my great-grandfather of the same name.  The town is very small, so I assumed they were related.  Thanks to Ancestry’s release of the Bavarian World War I Personnel Rosters, I learned more about Josef, including when he was born, his parents’ names, and how he died in 1916.  In fact, I learned about many other Bergmeister men, too.  Although the indexing is not yet complete (see the main search page for more details), there are thirteen Bergmeister men listed.  Of these, eight are directly related to my great-grandfather – including Josef whose name was inscribed on the memorial in Puch.  With the help of my cousin Armin Bergmeister, I’ve assembled the following tree showing the names of the Bergmeister men up until the World War I timeframe. Click on the image to enlarge.

The soldier Josef and my great-grandfather Josef are first cousins once removed.  Josef’s own first cousin, Anton, also died in the war just weeks before him.  With their deaths, the Bergmeister family in the town of Puch ended.  Other Bergmeister relatives had moved to other towns in Bavaria as well as the United States, but nearly three hundred years of the Bergmeister family in Puch came to an abrupt end.  Both Josef and Anton were second cousins to my grandmother and her three brothers that were born in the United States (and their German-born sister).

My great-grandfather also lost two of his second cousins in the war, Sigmund and Hermann.  Two of his third cousins (Andreas and Magnus) fought as well as his third cousin’s son, Anton, and his 5th cousin Ignatz.

I chose to focus on the soldier Josef for this story, but each of the soldier’s stories – as gleaned from the rosters – is worth remembering.  Unfortunately, we have no photograph of Josef, but thanks to my cousin Armin I can share a photograph of one of these Bergmeister soldiers, Sigmund – Armin’s grandfather.  Sigmund died on 15 August 1916 at the age of 31, leaving behind one child.   His brother Hermann died less  than two years later at the age of 24, leaving behind two children.

Lieutenant Sigmund Bergmeister, 1885-1916

There are many men named Josef on the Bergmeister family tree.  I am currently familiar with cousins from three distinct lines of descent: 1) my own family’s descent through Josef (son of Josef, son of Jakob, son of Josef), 2) the line descended from Johann (son of Castulus, son of Jakob, son of Josef), and 3) the line descended from the soldier Sigmund (son of Sebastian, son of Simon, son of Josef).  In my own American line, the name Joseph Bergmeister was passed on and is currently owned by a handsome young man, my second cousin once removed.  He is the sixth straight Joseph/Josef Bergmeister – and would have been the 8th straight if it weren’t for his 4th great-grandfather, Jakob.  There is also a current Josef Bergmeister in Germany, my 3rd cousin once removed and a very charitable host along with his brother Hans and their wives.  They are both descended from the Castulus line. (See a photo of Castulus as well as my Josef on The Bergmeister Family page!)

So, one mystery was solved.  Thanks to the Bavarian military rosters, I now know more about Josef Bergmeister, the previously unknown soldier, as well as many other Bergmeister cousins my great-grandfather left behind when he came to America.

But wait!  Now there’s a new mystery…how are we all related to the other five men named Bergmeister listed in the personnel rosters?  We already have a hint that the “other” Philadelphia Bergmeister family is originally from the town of Hoerdt and is related to at least one of these men.  As to how far back we have to go to connect the two, and who the other four men are, those are mysteries still waiting to be solved!

Need help figuring out relationships and what “removed” cousins are?  See The Family Relationship Chart

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What happened at the battle that cost Josef his life?  How were his American cousins affected by the same war?

In Part 3 we read Josef Bergmeister’s service record and discovered that he died as a result of injuries sustained during the battle of Fleury-Thiaumont in July, 1916.  Today’s post will discuss this battle in more detail.

The town names of Fleury and Thiaumont may not be familiar, but surely everyone has heard of the Battle of Verdun, the bloodiest and perhaps the longest battle in history.  The Battle of Verdun was a series of battles from 21 February – 19 December 1916 between the German and French armies on the Western Front.  The numbers alone paint a picture of what happened there.  In the end, an estimated 250,000 men were killed, and another 500,000 were wounded.  Approximately 40 million artillery shells were used by both sides during the fight.  The battlefield itself was not very large – just a long and narrow piece of land.

During the Battle of Verdun, the town of Fleury changed hands between the German and the French sixteen times.  The town was completely destroyed and is uninhabited today.  To the German army, the small town was the gateway to Verdun, which in turn would lead directly to Paris.  During the month of June, 1916, the Germans fought hard to move into the town.  By the end of June, it was reported that it was unbearably hot.

On 23 June, the Germans launched a chemical attack with 110,000 grenades of poisonous gas.  Although many French soldiers died from the chemical attack, their gas masks withstood the gas better than the Germans had expected.  But the chemical gas, constant bombardment from artillery, and the oppressive heat were all affecting the troops; both sides described the terrible stench from corpses rotting in the heat.  Josef Bergmeister’s first cousin, Anton Bergmeister, from the 10th Infantry Regiment, was killed here on 24 June at the age of 19.

By mid-July, the Germans were in control of Fleury, but there were many small attacks in the area in an effort to gain high ground and some fortifications.  On 12 July, the French received orders to regain Fleury.  A fierce battle was fought from 15-19 July in which each side attempted to gain more ground.

A photo of Bavarian soldiers in the trenches at Fleury used with permission from The Soldier's Burden, http://www.kaiserscross.com/40047/124001.html.

Josef Bergmeister’s brigade (8th Company, 11th Bav. Infantry Regiment, 12th Bav. Brigade, 6th Bavarian Division) has missed the fighting in this area and had been fighting in St. Mihiel.  His regiment went into the front lines on 17-18 July and suffered such losses that a telegraph was sent to immediately send 500 replacement troops.  Did Josef know that his cousin Anton was killed at Thiaumont just weeks earlier?

Josef was injured by an artillery shell on 18 July in his arm and leg.  After being transferred to a hospital, he died on 01 August.  His comrades and his enemies continued the fight, and with each battle the area around Fleury and Thiaumont is captured and re-captured over and over with little meaning to the overall war effort.  Thousands lay dead on the battlefield.

Josef’s entire division left Verdun on 5 August, and by early September they were fighting another well-known and long series of battles: the Somme.  The division again endured considerable losses.  The Battle of Verdun continued through December 1916.  The final statistics show French casualties at Verdun as 371,000, including 60,000 killed, 101,000 missing and 210,000 wounded. Total German casualties are recorded as 337,000 men. The statistics also confirm that at least 70% of the Verdun casualties on both sides were the result of artillery fire.  Men like Josef Bergmeister that were taken from the battlefield to hospitals were given burials in cemeteries, but it is estimated that 100,000 men remain on the battlefield today – buried where they fell.

The site The Soldier’s Burden offers a detailed glimpse into the lives of the soldiers on all “sides” of the war and gives testament to their struggles and losses.  On a page recounting the battle in which Josef Bergmeister died, another Bavarian soldier, Hans Heiß of the Bavarian Leib Regiment, describes the battle.  I have reprinted most of the description with permission here:

A red streak in the starry night, then another, then another. They burst into red stars. Are they fireworks? A game? No, they are serious, deadly serious. Whizzing over Fleury and Douaumont. The Frenchies had noticed that we were being relieved and had called up an artillery barrage. A barrage meant hell!

Run Comrades, run for your lives!

There is the railway embankment… a ghostly area, keep running. The first salvo comes screaming in… flames, smoke… keep running… move forward. Into the hollow ground beyond… here hell opened up! Whizzing, Howling, gurgling the shells come in. Black earth, smoke and flames shoot up into the air. A wall of death.

Panting, the breath is stilted. Jumping from shell hole to shell hole… through! then FORWARD! Keep running!

Up the embankment, stumbling, falling. The heart beating in the throat…falling, getting up, continuing. Foam on the lips… up there, the large shell crater… get into it! Once there you can get your breath back. Almost there, there where they are all headed for.

Whizz, bang! Flame and smoke… right in the heavy shell hole! Don’t go in, pass it by!

Here they crawl forward, blood stained and blackened by smoke “Kamerad! Kamerad! For God’s sake… help me!” “And me!” “And me!”

Cannot, have to get forward into position… don’t listen, don’t look! Go past! Move… faster!

…. There! There! It is terrible, someone is burning. He tosses his burning backpack away but his uniform is burning. Ha, ha, ha! Laughing, laughing at the sky…he has gone mad.

Burying the head in the sand. See nothing, Hear nothing, think nothing!  Think nothing!

Then it was over and we could move forward.

It will be four days in the front line now. Four endless, terrible, desperate days. And four terrible nights. And if we survive… the same road through hell back again.

Two men pass carrying in a wounded man wrapped in a shelter half.  A whizz and a bang. Flame and smoke, all three men are swept away, the medics and wounded man ripped apart, gone forever. No! No! No further! Throw it all away, the backpack, rifle, gasmask… and now run! Run! Run far away.. far away from this hell…

Fleury today. The depressions remain from the artillery fire. Photo courtesy of Chris Boonzaier.

New York Times headline, December 31, 1918.

Meanwhile, in the United States German immigrants were far from the battlefield, but life was difficult in other ways.  The United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917.  Germans living in the U.S. were warned to obey the law and surrender any weapons, explosives, or radios.  Any who did not comply were arrested.  Any non-naturalized German that was believed to be aiding the enemy were arrested and interred.  By December, 1917, all male Germans in cities with populations over 5,000 had to report to either the post office or police station to register; the same rules applied to female Germans the following May.

Most of these records no longer exist, but I did once see the list of Philadelphia “enemy alien registrations” (now missing).  In it were the names and addresses of my great-grandparents, Josef (now known as Joseph) and Marie Bergmeister, and their 20-year-old German-born daughter, Marie.  My great-grandfather had not yet declared his intent to become a citizen of the United States, but he had lived in the country since 1900.  Their four American-born children were safe from the registration requirements.

The Joseph Bergmeister living in America, despite being considered an “enemy alien” required to register with the authorities, was also required to register for the selective service act.  On 12 September 1918, he registered for military service with the U.S. draft board in Philadelphia, PA, but he was never called into service by the U.S. military.  Joseph’s brother Ignatz also registered with the draft board in Elizabeth, NJ on the same day.

Joseph Bergmeister's WWI draft card. Note that the German-born "Joseph" still signs his name Josef!

My relatives left no diaries or letters to reveal what they thought about these regulations, or about the war with their homeland, or if they knew the fate of their cousins in Germany or even kept in touch after immigration.  One can only wonder what it felt like to suddenly be considered “the enemy” in the country you called home for so many years.

In Part 5, the final post in this series on the Bavarian Military Rosters, we will discover how closely the two Josef Bergmeister’s are related and see how many Bergmeister men were involved in the war fighting for Germany.

Sources:

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